More Glorious Ekphrasis

BazilleCeremony

by RICHARD WILBUR

A striped blouse in a clearing by Bazille   

Is, you may say, a patroness of boughs   

Too queenly kind toward nature to be kin.   

But ceremony never did conceal,

Save to the silly eye, which all allows,

How much we are the woods we wander in.

Let her be some Sabrina fresh from stream,

Lucent as shallows slowed by wading sun,

Bedded on fern, the flowers’ cynosure:

Then nymph and wood must nod and strive to dream   

That she is airy earth, the trees, undone,

Must ape her languor natural and pure.

Ho-hum. I am for wit and wakefulness,   

And love this feigning lady by Bazille.   

What’s lightly hid is deepest understood,   

And when with social smile and formal dress   

She teaches leaves to curtsey and quadrille,   

I think there are most tigers in the wood.

Source: Poetry (February 1948).

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